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19 July 2022

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Stoush blamed on exclusion of Silktails’ players from Fiji World Cup squad

Monday 30 May 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji

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Stoush blamed on exclusion of Silktails’ players from Fiji World Cup squad
The Kaiviti Silktails managed 13 games in 2021. Photo: Facebook/Kaiviti Silktails

An extended squad of 50 players has been named to represent the Fiji Bati at the men's Rugby League World Cup in October, but not one player from the currently Australia-based Kaiviti Silktails has been included.

The ABC says their exclusion tends to support claims from the Fijian team's management that their players have been ruled ineligible as a result of the simmering row between the club and the Fiji NRL.

The Silktails chief executive, Stephen Driscoll, pointed out that a number of players included in the squad play for Australian clubs in the same Ron Massey Cup competition in New South Wales as the Silktails.

Driscoll said the FNRL and the head coach need to work out among themselves who is telling the truth.

"Because the head coach's basically said that they (the Silktails) won't be considered based on a directive from the board. People just don't go saying those things, and if he has said it, and it's not true, then that's a problem in itself."

Driscoll said the debate is not about selection, but about eligibility, and the fact that the players are collateral damage in the dispute between the FNRL and the Silktails over the club's operations.

"Probably 85 percent of our squad being so young and being under the age of 21, World Cup aspirations for them will be in four years time, not at this one, But for five or six senior players, they're definitely in a position to challenge for a spot".

The FNRL's interim Chief Executive, Don Natabe, denies the club captain was informed by the coach that no Silktails player would be involved, and insists the door is still open for every Fijian player who is eligible.

After two years based full-time in Australia because of Covid-19 restrictions, the team plans to return to Fiji next season and play ten home games in Lautoka, but after a memorandum of agreement was torn up in January, they are no longer officially recognised by the FNRL.

Natabe has described the club as an Australian project promoting foreign interests, funded by the PacificAus Sports programme.

"For over five months they have operated without the FNRL's approval and endorsement and that seems to be okay by PacificAus Sports and the NSW Rugby League," he said.

The Chairman of Fiji's Sports Commission, Peter Mazey, says the lack of official approval could create problems when the team returns home to play, and that's something he wants to avoid.

"The recommendation is that there be mediation. The Silktails have filled a gap for young Fijians to get them the opportunity to play in Australia, and we're hoping what happens is that sense prevails and they (the club and the FNRL) will start talking to each other."

But Driscoll says attempts at mediation so far have failed.

"The first one was to be facilitated by the Sports Commission. We accepted the offer, FNRL didn't respond."

Fiji, playing in their third World Cup, have been drawn in Pool 2 with France and Scotland.

Last ditch try seals victory for Silktails

Meanwhile, the Silktails scored with 10 seconds left on the clock to clinch a thrilling 36-34 win over Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in the Ron Massey Cup at the weekend.

In a match full of momentum swings and plays, the defining moment came very late on when the Silktails shifted the ball through the hands for Sirilo Iovokuro to cross for a try in the far corner.

The Silktails face the Glebe Dirty Reds on Saturday afternoon.